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Creating a Wildflower Meadow

Creating a Wildflower Meadow

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Published by msblsports
Butterflies and hummingbirds will “beat a path" to your wildflower meadow and you will have the pleasure of experiencing a constant changing of colors from week to week, too beautiful to adequately describe.
Butterflies and hummingbirds will “beat a path" to your wildflower meadow and you will have the pleasure of experiencing a constant changing of colors from week to week, too beautiful to adequately describe.

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Published by: msblsports on Jan 27, 2012
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10/09/2012

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Page 1A Plant's Home
©
WindStar Wildlife InstituteFor more nature habitat informationVisit these helpful websites:
A Plant's HomeA Bird's HomeA Homesteader's Home
Creating aWildflowerMeadow
 Butterflies and hummingbirds will 
“ 
 beat a path" to your wildflower meadow and you will  have the pleasure of experiencing a constant changing of colors from week to week, too beautiful to adequately describe.
I
f you are looking for a familynature project that is funand rewarding, considerturning part of your yard intoa wildflower meadow.A wildflower meadow is likean endless string of birthdaypresents. Each day you will findan unexpected blossom toadmire, or a new bird orbutterfly to watch. A meadowwill promote a feeling of calmas well as discovery, providelots of flowers for cutting andmaterials for nature crafts,plus support wildlife with foodand shelter.While several acres of wildflowers are undoubtedlylovely, a small
pocket meadow"in the backyard can also bringyou months of pleasure. Awildflower meadow should look natural. It can providecontrast to a green lawn orformal flower beds.Although you will tend it bycontrolling invasive weeds, theoverall effect will not be asgroomed as a traditionalgarden or lawn, so you maywant to discuss your planswith your neighbors and getthem excited about theconcept of meadows.You should also check on anylocal regulations that wouldprohibit an unmowed area. To
dress up" your meadow andmake it look more tended,consider adding pathways, afence, and maybe even a benchor two.
Getting Started
First, you must decide whereto put your meadow. Althoughthere are wildflowers that
 
Page 2A Plant's Home
©
WindStar Wildlife Institute
thrive in shady conditions, mostmeadows need to be in an areaof full sun. The otherrequirement is that the soilhave good drainage. Although itis generally not recommendedthat you fertilize a meadow, if your soil is heavy clay you mightwant to add some organicmatter to improve drainage.Most wildflowers will care forthemselves once they areestablished, but they will haveto be kept moist for the firstfew weeks as they germinateand set down roots, so yourmeadow area should be near aconvenient source of water.Choose a site that is only aslarge as you are willing to work to maintain.
Seed
Wildflower seed can bepurchased from a number of sources. It is important to usea reputable company. You canget a list of suppliers for yourarea from the NationalWildflower Research Center,4801 LaCrosse Avenue,Austin, Texas 78739.If you decide to plant selectedspecies rather than use amixture of flowers, pick plantsthat are native to your part of the country. They will growbetter and you won
t risk introducing a species that canbecome invasive and crowd outnative vegetation. Beware of generic
wildflowers in a can"because they often containundesirable weeds and grasses.
When to plant
Wildflower seed is best sownabout one week before vegetablegardens are planted in yourarea. If you have cold winters,spring planting after all dangerof killing frost is best. It is alsopossible to plant in summer, upto two months before frost, butthen you must expect to domore watering.Gardeners who live in coldclimates might choose to try
dormant planting." This meanswaiting until after killing frosts,when the ground has cooledenough to prevent sprouting.The seed will winter over in itsdormant state and sprout inthe spring, giving you earlierblossoms.Those living in warm climateswith light or no frost can plantalmost any time, but the hotsummer months are notrecommended. Generallyspeaking, you want to plantwhen the soil is warm and rainwill promote germination.
Grasses
A natural meadow includesgrasses as well as wildflowers.The National WildflowerResearch Center, of whichWindStar is a member,recommends that nativegrasses make up 50 to 80percent of the meadow seed.They are beneficial because theyhelp support and protect tallwildflowers, crowd out weeds,and prevent soil erosion.The grasses will also add colorand texture to your meadow, aswell as provide food and coverfor wildlife. Depending on thespecies, their growth form willbe mat- (or sod) forming, orbunch-forming. Those that formmats spread by runners
 – 
stems that grow horizontallyalong the ground and put downroots. Bunch grasses formclumps and usually don
t floweror set seeds the first year.Some may only be 2 or 3 inchestall by the end of the growingseason.Beneficial native grassesinclude buffalograss, bigbluestem, little bluestem,grama grasses, Indian grass,and muhly grasses.
Soil preparation
Your soil can be prepared byhand or by rototilling.Wildflowers are hardy but notmagic
 – 
you can
t just throwthe seeds on the ground andexpect them to perform well.They have to have contact withthe soil, and a chance to growwithout overwhelmingcompetition from weeds.If you use a tiller, go only deepenough to remove old roots.Digging deeper just brings moreweed seeds to the surface togerminate. If tilling isn
tsufficient, there are othermethods to try. Your choice will
 
Page 3A Plant's Home
©
WindStar Wildlife Institute
depend upon your time, budget,the size of your site, andattitude towards herbicides.
 Method One involves early
site preparation three weeksprior to sowing. Tilling is
followed by repeated cultivationduring that time period, thuseliminating the early annualweeds.
 Method Two starts six weeks
ahead of sowing. During the
first three weeks after tilling,weeds are allowed to grow (evenencouraged with watering) andthen they are treated with aherbicide such as Roundup. Theweeds will die during the nextthree weeks and can be rakedaway. This also gives thechemicals time to wash out of the soil. This method is good if you have persistent perennialweeds to remove.
 Method Three takes more
planning, but requires nochemicals. Till in the late
summer or early fall of the yearbefore you want to plant. Thesoil can be left fallow, or you canplant a cover crop such asbuckwheat or annual rye grass.This will hold the soil in place,add beneficial organic matter tothe site, and help to crowd outgerminating weeds. In the spring,lightly cultivate to loosen thesoil and turn under the covercrop just before planting.
Sowing
Once your ground is bare andloosened and you are ready tosow, there are some tricks thatwill make the process easier andmore successful. Choose anearly windless day, andseparate the seed into roughlytwo equal parts. Put the firsthalf in a container and addabout 10 parts of light sand orvermiculite.This will help you to spreadthe seed evenly, and also makeit easy to see where you
vealready been. Sow this half overthe whole area to be seeded,either by hand or using a hand-crank cyclone seeder.You may want to sow up to 2or 3 times the supplier
srecommended minimum rates,but don
t go higher than thatbecause it will inhibit goodgrowth.Mix the second half of yourseed in the same way, andspread it over the whole areaalso, making sure that you hitany bare spots that weremissed the first time. Don
trake or cover the seed with soil.Instead, press it into theground using a lawn roller orpiece of plywood that you walk on.If compressing isn
t possible,it is better to do nothing thanto rake or cover the seed.
Germination
All seeds, even wildflowers,need moisture and warmth togerminate. Some will sprout in aweek, while others take months.Most mixes will include bothannual and perennial flowers.The annuals germinate quicklyand grow fast. They bloom earlyand heavily, set seed, and arekilled by frost. They may reseed,but you will probably want toadd more seed every couple of years to insure a goodperformance.Perennials come back everyyear from the same roots. Theygrow more slowly and may notflower until the second year.They get larger and strongereach year, forming clumps thatmay die back in winter butreturn the next spring. A thirdtype of plant, biennials, formleaves the first year, bloom thesecond, and are killed by frostafter blooming. They aregenerally considered perennialperformers, however, because of their heavy seed production.
Maintenance
Fertilizer is not recommended.Wildflowers grow best in soilswith low fertility, where nitrogenlevels are low. Using fertilizer willalso promote weed growth.Water to get the meadowestablished, and then only intimes of stress. Overwateringyields more leaves and fewerflowers.You might have to pull upsome weeds or shrubs thatintrude on your meadow, butoften it is easiest to just letthem go and become part of your natural landscape. Once ayear, at the end of the growing

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